Obama, Romney battle over jobs numbers as candidates cross paths on general election campaign trail

President Obama and Mitt Romney charged out of their national conventions Friday with a full slate of dueling campaign events in vital swing states, each wasting little time building on his message that the other guy would set a fragile economic recovery back.

On the first official day of the general election campaign, Obama and Vice President Biden started with a campaign stop in New Hampshire before heading to the University of Iowa. They crossed paths with Romney, who held a rally in Orange City, Iowa, Friday afternoon before heading to Nashua, N.H., for a stadium rally in the evening.

Despite two weeks of speeches by luminaries from each party touching on everything from Al Qaeda to contraception to the national debt, the post-convention theme Friday was the same as it was before – jobs.

Obama and Biden were trumpeting the message that voters must keep the faith and give the Obama administration four more years to finish what it started on the economic front. But another dim labor report out Friday morning gave Republicans a ready counter.

“You know, the president gave a big speech last night. … He's good at giving great speeches, he's just really bad at creating jobs,” said Paul Ryan, who was campaigning apart from the top of the ticket in Sparks, Nev.

The August Labor Department report showed just 96,000 jobs were added last month and hundreds of thousands gave up looking for work, which contributed to the unemployment rate dipping from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent.

Romney, on the stump and in an interview with Fox News, held up the report as evidence the current administration is not getting the job done.

“If you look over the last several quarters, last several years, you see the continued pattern which is that we are not creating the jobs we need to create to put Americans back to work. For every net new job created, about four people dropped out of the workforce,” Romney told Fox News. “So we're going in the wrong direction."

Speaking to a crowd in Orange City, Iowa, Romney also panned Obama’s nomination acceptance speech the night before in Charlotte, where Obama laid out a series of policy goals.

“Yesterday you had the chance, if you wanted to, to watch the president of the United States address the people of America in his acceptance speech and I read that this morning,” Romney said. “You perhaps got a chance to do that but if you did perhaps like me you found it extraordinarily disappointing, surprisingly disappointing because in his speech four years ago he laid out a whole series of lofty goals and unfortunately he was unable to meet them.”

Romney said that, despite a new set of goals in the Obama speech, the president did not “lay out a plan for what he’d do to get the economy going again.”

But Obama shot back on speeches at the Republican National Convention during a Friday evening rally at the University of Iowa.

"They want your votes, but don't have a plan. All they have to offer is the same prescriptions: tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts," Obama said. "Tax cuts when times are good, tax cuts when times are bad, tax cuts to improve your love life."

Obama, speaking in Portsmouth Friday afternoon, made the case he’s been making for months – stressing that, while there’s more work to do, the economy is adding private-sector jobs.

“Today we learned that after losing over 800,000 jobs a month when I took office, business once again added jobs for the 30th month in a row -- a total 4.6 million jobs,” Obama said. “But that's not good enough. We know it's not good enough. We need to create more jobs faster.”

As he went on to accuse Republicans of hiding the ball on their tax plan, Obama also reprised the themes from his Charlotte speech. He urged Americans to join him, not just vote for him, in striving toward the goals he laid out Thursday night.

“Look, I am not just asking for your vote, I'm asking the entire country to rally around a set of goals for our country -- goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security and the deficit,” he said. “And this is a real achievable plan that will lead to new jobs and more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That's what we can do in the next four years.”

Obama set several goals Thursday night for a second term — like recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers, cutting tuition growth in half, and cutting the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years.

Obama made a similar set of goals and pledges in his 2008 address, and several of them have not been met. Romney’s campaign, in its early reaction to the president’s speech Thursday night, knocked the latest goals as more empty rhetoric.

“He offered more promises, but he hasn’t kept the promises he made four years ago,” Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said.